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I went through the Team Writing Discussion Forums on our VLE today and things are hotting up.All the teams are posting, all the ideas developing . At the time of writing, seven of the nine teams have decided on a Specific Team Writing Project, and the remaining two will finish their deliberations and come to a decision by Monday.
All in all I am very impressed with the students work so far. It takes quite a leap of faith to drop your own personal idea and buy in to the one selected by the team. Especially when you know that you will have to come up with a fully formatted script of an individual episode, complete with Character arcs, series arcs, and springboards to the second series.
This week , John Quinn will be delivering a lecture on how to create interesting and intriguing Characters, with specific reference to “Dirty Sexy Money ” (Wright, 2007)
I’ll give my loyal blog readers a full run down on the nine successful projects next week. From then on its a countdown to the Industry Pitch and then the writing of the scripts.
Team Writing For Television is a level 10 Module I deliver along with my colleagues Dr Jill Jamieson and John Quinn as part of the Film Making and Screenwriting and Broadcast Production Programmes at the University Of The West Of Scotland at the Ayr Campus.
We investigate the theoretical underpinning of shows such as Glee (Brennan et al 2009) , True Blood (Ball 2008) and E 20, the BBC’s new web delivered teen drama, and then apply these lessons to the practical task of writing a long running TV series.
The students have all been trained in using Screenwriting Formatting software (such as CeltX and Final Draft, ) and have learned elementary Screenplay Narrative Structure in previous Modules. In week one they take part in an initial skills audit where we assess their likes, dislikes, preferred genres and technical skills and even character traits. From this data we form them into hopefully coherent teams whose task is to create the Bible for a long running TV Series, which they will eventually pitch to Industry Professionals.
After the pitching session in week 9, each team designs an appropriate Series and Character Arc, and each member then writes an individual Episode of the Series. They also contextualise their learning by researching and writing a 2,500 word essay on a specific theoretical aspect of Team Writing.
Each of the teams nominates a scribe whose task it is to record and publicise the discussions and action points of the individual groups online on our VLE , Blackboard.
The teams are now in week three of the fifteen week TWFTV process , and at the moment , there are 51 projects which will be whittled down to 9 by week 5 .
I have just had a look at the student blog for the TWFTV projects, which is fairly bristling with creativity. The ideas range from Dark Comedy, Zombie Thrillers, Whodunnits and cross-genre projects such as Time Travelling Sit Coms and Musical Vampire Blood-fests.( Oh no, not that old Musical Vampire Blood-Fest chestnut, I hear you cry.)
I can honestly say that each time I read the students work I come away turbo-charged with enthusiasm at the sheer breadth and imagination of their ideas. I will keep blog readers abreast of developments as the module continues.
We are carrying out research at all stages of the process and hope to present and publish the results at an appropriate time.
An invigorating night spent discussing Screenwriting and Structure with the members of the Ayr Writer’s Club on Wednesday evening in Prestwick Community Centre.
It never ceases to amaze me the hornets nest of creativity which exists in every town and shire of Scotland. I have seen the same phenomenon in such crucibles of literary creativity as Alloa, Stirling, St Andrews, Lochgilphead, and now Prestwick and Ayr.
Faced with an audience of local Poets, Novelists and Short Story writers, it can be quite intimidating to hold forth on such potentially prosaic territory as the “Structural underpinning of an Episode of East Enders” , but the evening went very well, with my usual haphazard scatter gun approach to public speaking, followed by a robust question and answer session which went on for 90 mins. Mind you, the free chocolates helped admirably. I am also honoured to be judging the Writers Club annual Drama Writing competition and spent this morning pouring over the manuscripts to decide on the winners and losers. Never an easy task!
All in all a great night at Prestwick Comunity Centre, so many thanks to my ex-student Maria McCluskey for approaching me to do it, and for the hard work of Lesley Deschner and Maggie Bolton and the others for helping to organise it. It was also great to see an old friend and colleague, Catherine Czerkawska there too , and to share a few laughs about the bad old days of Scottish Theatre and a particularly problematic production of “Heroes and Others” at the Macrobert. Happyish days.
As luck would have it, Maggie was telling me that she has contacts for Student Bursaries for a national Creative Writing programme which takes place in the Peak District in the summer, so as is the way with all of these events, delicious opportunities present themselves where you least expect. I don’t think I have ever delivered a so called lecture in which I did not garner at least one important contact for future creative endeavours. So good luck to the Ayr scriveners, and thank you for your information , encouragement and kind words.
Apparently one member said afterwards” You couldn’t pay for advice like this” . Maybe I should start charging!
You can contact Ayr Writers Club for more information here . http://www.ayrwritersclub.co.uk/index.html
Two of Scotland’s top TV Script Executives,Mike Ellen, (Script Development Executive with BBC Scotland) and Kate Croft ( Shed Productions) have agreed to visit the UWS in Ayr as part of the assessment process for Team Writing For Televison.
Mike works on developing Long Running Drama for the BBC at Pacific Quay, and previously worked on Series such as Taggart and Rebus for STV.
Kate is managing new projects for Shed through KoCo Drama, and is also head of drama at Shed Media Scotland, working closely with all the drama producers in the group – Shed Productions, Wall to Wall and Twenty Twenty .
During her time at RDF, Kate developed and produced the drama Murderland starring Robbie Coltrane and written by David Pirie which recently completed its three week run on ITV1.
We are very pleased to welcome them both to the UWS where they will assess the work of the Team Writing For Television students in Creative Industries pitching session.
I have just had the invigorating experience of reading 50 different elevator pitches of long running series ideas from the TWFTV class. I can honestly say that I have never read such a wide range of intriguing, fresh , exciting ideas.
Next stage in the process is to whittle them down to 9 projects, which the teams will then develop over the next two months into a comprehensive five page series Bible, and ultimately write an episode each.
The nine teams will then pitch their ideas to Mike and Kate on the Industry Pitching Day on 19th April.
No pressure there, then.
Watch this space for details.
Lynn Stewart, first Class Honours graduate in Performance and a lecturer at UWS was in 7th Heaven on Saturday Night at the FilmG awards at Eden Court in Inverness. Her first film “Pris Eisg” won a Visions award at the annual Gaelic Film Fest.
The story of two bored young women who look for the high life, with a real sting in the tail,” Pris Eisg” director Lynn is pictured here with Donald Campbell, Chief Executive of the Gaelic Digital Channel, MG Alba, who are a major sponsor of the awards. Also pictured are Michael Hines, lecturer in Performance at UWS and one of Scotland’s top comeday directors, who presented the “Best Director” Award. Professor Mike Danson from UWS also attended. Another major sponsor of the event, Highlands and Islands Enterprise head of Creative Industries, Iain Hamilton completes the line up.
Mike and I were part of the UWS team who helped develop the entry level scripts at the University of The Highlands and Islands at Sabhal Mhor Ostaig in Skye last October.It was a wonderful experience to see the end result on Saturday night as the winners , nominees and sponsors enjoyed a touch of glamour in the hills.